Athanasius of Alexandria – inspires us to stand up for the divinity of Jesus Christ
c295 – 373
Athanasius was Bishop of the Egyptian city of Alexandria at a time when false teaching about Jesus threatened to destroy the church. Arianism, named after the teaching of Arius who also worked in Alexandria, denied that Jesus Christ who is God the Son, is fully God. Arius taught the Son was created, and therefore not eternal. The simplest summary of this heretical position was “there was a time when the Son was not.”
Athanasius stood firm against this false teaching, arguing from the Scriptures that Christ was always fully God and, “of the same substance as the Father.” Athanasias persevered even though everyone around him followed Arius – he felt he was, ‘Athanasius contra mundum’ (Athanasius against the whole world). He understood not only that Christ is divine, but also that if he is not God we cannot be saved – because only God can satisfy himself for our sins. And if Christ is merely a created being, he is not worthy of our worship.
His insistence, based upon the Bible, that Jesus is God and not merely a mediating creature, saw Athanasius exiled five times by four different Roman emperors, spending 17 of his 45 years as bishop in exile. There were also six occasions when he had to flee the city to escape those trying to kill him. We can be thankful to God for Athanasius’ courageous biblical convictions that ensured we are not taught to worship a created being, but God the Son who became a man to die in our place to save us.